Disclaimer: Characters from The Professionals are © Mark-1 Productions Ltd
and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.

Sorry, this is more self-indulgence...

An unlikely pair of guardian angels

         It was almost one in the morning and Helen was nearly asleep as we arrived home. Bodie slid out first. "I'll carry her in."
          "Bodie, she's getting too heavy for that." He gave me a grin but completely ignored me, so I busied myself with paying for the taxi before hurrying with the keys to the door so that he wouldn't have to hold her for too long.
          "Shall I take her upstairs?"
          Fortunately Helen was disturbed by being moved and chose that moment to wake up. Bodie set her back on her feet as she drowsily asked what was happening. "You're home, sweetheart. I think you need your bed."
          I took over from Bodie. "I'll get her to bed."
          Helen was still half-asleep and for once I didn't fuss about her brushing her teeth; getting her out of the beautiful bridesmaid's dress, into her nightie and into bed in double-quick time, where she immediately dropped off again.
          Going to my own room I took off my makeup and cleansed my skin, finally allowing my thoughts to return to that afternoon.

         I had always known that if Katie got even the slightest hint she'd need to know everything - I just hadn't imagined it would be on her wedding day. With everyone's senses heightened by emotion perhaps it had been inevitable.
          There would never have been a good time.

         Bodie was still downstairs. He would have found a drink and made himself comfortable on the sofa, and even if I didn't go back downstairs that's where he would stay until morning.
          He never asked whether I wanted him to stay, or whether I minded him staying, but he was there in case I needed him.

         I slipped out of the fine clothes and into pyjamas, topping them off with the fleecy dressing gown, remembering the first time Bodie had stayed for me.
          It was the evening after Peter's funeral; he had stayed on after Ray and Katie left, supposedly to help me finish tidying up.
          Helen was tired out and I'd sent her to bed early, intending to do the same. Bodie normally would go then, but that night he showed no inclination to leave.
          I was too emotional to be polite when I asked him to go, but he shook his head. "I'm staying, Nicky. I'll be here if you need me."
          I had rushed upstairs, feeling threatened even with the trust I felt for him, but he hadn't followed me. I had cried alone for a while, before realising that I did need him and making my way back to the lounge.
          I barely remembered the night of Peter's death beyond the comfort of Bodie's arms as I came to terms with it, and once again Bodie held me while I cried for my husband.
          He had stayed many times since then; seeming to know when I was at my most vulnerable no matter what face I was presenting to the world. The number of nights when I had allowed myself to seek comfort could be counted on one hand, but if I hadn't sought him out then he would be gone early, before Helen woke.
          But tonight would be one of those nights. I had to force myself to remember rather than forcing myself to forget and I would need his strength.

         The lights were down low; Bodie sitting where he always did. Glass in one hand he held the other out to me. "Come on, Nick."
          I curled my legs under me, snuggling against him into the protection of his arm, already feeling defenceless even though it was only a memory.
          It was over thirty years ago now. My father. A drunken, violent bastard, who abused his own daughter. The abuse had been infrequent; a by-product of his drunken moods rather than systematic, but that hadn't made it any easier.
          The slaps and punches had been handed out regularly; Paul and I were terrified of him, particularly after Russ died. I could still remember Russ falling down the stairs, and how easily Dad lied about what happened - after threatening us both with what would happen if we said a word.
          Paul had been even more protective of us then. Between us we'd managed to never let him lay a hand on Katie, although it had frequently led to me, or more often Paul, coming off worse than ever.
          I'd often wondered - more so over the years - how Mum could let him do it. She wasn't always around but must have known how he hit us - it wasn't as though she escaped injury herself. I hadn't hated her for it but I had never been as close to her as Katie was.

         When his criminal activities caught up with him and he was killed it seemed things would go from bad to worse. Finally fed up with his temper Mum had left him a few weeks earlier and we didn't know where she was. We'd taken Katie and run, knowing that to stay would mean Social Services would split us up. Quite how we thought we would survive I don't know.
          Then after just a couple of days, Paul had been picked up by Ray and Bodie. Within just a few hours we'd acquired guardian angels and our lives had been turned around.
          Not that life got easier by any means. But I coped through it all because I finally had Ray to turn to; someone strong that I could trust.

         I shifted uneasily on Bodie's shoulder and felt him give me a gentle squeeze.
          It had taken longer to properly trust him. At first I couldn't get close to him - or let him get close to me - but deep down I'd known Katie was safe with him and that was all that had mattered. That had changed on her ninth birthday.
          I sat up. Bodie would have to know that Katie had guessed something about that day. If she asked him about it he needed to be forewarned.
          His eyes questioned me. We never talked; he offered silent support and I silently took it. I could see him wondering what was different tonight.
          I hadn't lied to Katie when I said I'd never discussed the abuse with anyone. I'd always refused to discuss it with Ray and apart from that day Bodie and I had never spoken about it again. Peter had found it hardest to accept but he had loved me enough to respect my decision.
          Now, I would have to talk to Bodie; to raise that day between us again, because Katie wouldn't let it go.
          I hadn't drunk much all day but now I needed a drink. Bodie watched me pour the vodka and not add tonic. I clasped the glass defensively in front of me as I turned and met his eyes.
          "Tell me." It was the first time he'd ever uttered those words; he didn't subscribe to Ray's view of wanting to talk about and analyse everything. Perhaps he could see that I didn't want to tell him, but had to...

         "I had to tell Katie about Dad." I blurted the first words out, hoping I could find some more to follow them.
          He nodded; I had told Ray that earlier. I huddled back onto the sofa, leaving a space between us. I wanted more than anything to be folded back into that protective embrace but needed to see his face as we talked, hoping it would save me from having to spell everything out, but I could see that the distance worried him more than anything else.
          "She wanted to know why I'd never told her, when you and Ray knew. She remembers that party, Bodie. Somehow she guessed that was when I told you."
          I saw the shutters fall over the flare of pain in his eyes as he remembered as well. "But you didn't tell her why?"
          "I fobbed her off, said you'd asked about Dad and it had upset me."
          "She didn't believe you."
          I shook my head. "She took me by surprise and she knows me too well, Bodie. I'd never have told you just like that."
          "No." Bodie got up to refresh his drink. "Who do you think she'll tackle: me or you?"
          "You wouldn't tell her anything. She'll ask me. But I won't tell her about you." He still had his back to me but I saw him flinch. "You've been more of a father to her than he ever was. Neither of you can lose that. I just have to convince her she knows everything."
          "That's easier said than done."
          "Always is, with Katie." My little sister could rival a pitbull for tenacity.
          Bodie still looked worried; strangely I felt older and wiser. "You had to know about it, Bodie, but I'll handle her. I'll protect you, just as you've always protected me."
          He rejoined me on the sofa, holding me close. No more words were needed tonight.

         The bang woke me with a jump. As I sat up, bewildered at being on the sofa rather than in bed, I remembered I had been there with Bodie.
          Helen peered around the lounge door. "Sorry, Mum. I was just going to make you a cup of tea."
          I stretched and smiled at her, and stood up to ease my back. "Thank you. I could do with one."
          I looked around. There was no sign of Bodie; had he left before Helen woke? He'd never wanted her to feel threatened by staying, but on the few occasions he'd been here she hadn't seemed bothered.
          I followed Helen into the kitchen. "Bodie's upstairs," she told me. "I woke him when I came down, I didn't know you were sleeping down here."
          I was relieved to hear he hadn't gone. Helen's usual method of coming downstairs rivalled a baby elephant at times; I was surprised she hadn't woken me as well but I knew Bodie was a much lighter sleeper than me.
          "It was very late when we got back."
          She nodded, accepting that as a valid excuse for Bodie not going home. "He asked if we had everything in for a fry-up."
          I laughed. Bodie's appetite hadn't diminished in all the years I'd known him. "Let's see. Can't have Bodie going hungry."

         I had the frying pan going by the time Bodie came down, his smart suit of the day before looking crumpled from his night on the sofa. "Ah, perfect. Nothing like a good fry-up on Sunday mornings."
          "As long as it's only Sunday mornings," I smiled. "You know it's not good for you."
          "You've been listening to Ray again." He grinned at me. "I promise to eat muesli for the rest of the week."
          Helen giggled. "You hate muesli. You said it wasn't fit for rabbits."
          "And so it isn't. I'll just have to find something tasty to put on top."
          "Doesn't that defeat the object?" I handed Helen the knives and forks. "Go and lay the table, darling. This won't be long."
          Once she had gone, Bodie's demeanour changed. "I meant to leave early."
          "It's OK, Helen's fine. And I'm pleased you stayed." I handed him two plates. "You can do the washing up."

         After breakfast I left them to it and went to shower and dress, hearing them laughing and joking. Helen loved her 'uncle' Bodie as much as Katie had at that age.
          Katie. Even after all the talking - and not-talking - last night, I still didn't know what I was going to tell her. I had to decide quickly. Most couples left the reception and went straight on their honeymoon but Rob and Katie weren't leaving until early on Monday. I wouldn't put it past her to come round today.
          I also remembered with a sinking feeling that I'd left my car at their house and would need to pick it up today. Even if Katie didn't come here I had to go there.
          I heard the phone ring and Helen run to answer it. "Mandy!" she shrieked. "It was brilliant!"
          Mandy, her best friend who lived just across the road. I made my way down the stairs, shushing her. "If you keep up that noise you won't even need the phone."
          "Hold on. Mum, Mandy wants to know if I can go over and tell her all about yesterday."
          "Is Chris there?" I took the phone and spoke to Mandy's mum. "If Helen comes, can she stay until later today? I have a few things to sort out after yesterday."
          Chris laughed. "All that preparation and planning and you still get to tidy up? Of course Helen can come over, I'll find her some lunch."
          I delivered Chris' message and Helen rushed upstairs to change while I looked into the kitchen. Bodie was mopping the floor, looking boyishly guilty. "We had a bit of a water fight..."
          I rolled my eyes. Ray often said Bodie hadn't yet grown up and I couldn't help but agree. "Helen's going to spend the day with a friend. I need to get my car."
          Bodie paused in his mopping. "From Katie's?"
          I nodded. "Will you come with me?"
          "Of course." He wrung the cloth out over the sink, not looking at me. "Have you decided what to tell Katie?"
          "If I see her." I didn't intend to knock on the door but had to be prepared. "I don't know."
          Bodie glanced at me. "Wouldn't it be better to wait until you do?"
          I shook my head. "If I don't go there, she'll probably come here. I have to talk to her sometime, Bodie."

         I saw movement in the lounge as I got out of the taxi, and sighed. No avoiding it then. Seconds later the front door opened, and Rob waved to us. "Come on in. Kettle's on."
          There was nothing different in Rob's attitude to me for which I was relieved. I couldn't believe Katie would tell him but there had been a niggling doubt.
          "Tea or coffee? Katie's in the garden; I'll make it and bring it out."
          "Tea, please." I glanced back at Bodie. I wanted him to come with me so I didn't have to face Katie alone; at the same time knowing there was no other way.
          "I'll give you a hand." Giving my shoulder a reassuring squeeze Bodie followed Rob into the kitchen, and I made my way through the lounge and out into the small but neat garden.
          Katie was on their garden swing seat at the end, apparently dozing, although hearing my footsteps on the path she opened her eyes. "Nicky. I hoped you'd come."
          Although it sounded as though she wanted to see me, to talk, she also sounded apprehensive. I had to take advantage of that.
          "About what I told you yesterday." I sat next to her, mind racing as I tried to choose my words carefully. "We talk about it now, and never again, do you understand?"
          She nodded. "I'm sorry if I upset you yesterday, Nicky. I can see why you didn't tell me. But it was hard to find out that Ray and Bodie knew, when I didn't."
          I could see I'd have to explain at least some of it, and took a deep breath. "You remember when I was snatched by that paedophile? After what Dad had done to me I fought them and they didn't get a chance to abuse me before Ray and Bodie found me." I wasn't sure how much Katie knew or remembered, she hadn't been very old. "When the police took my statement, it must have been obvious to them that I understood about the abuse, even if that man hadn't laid a finger on me."
          "And they told Ray?"
          "I don't think so. At least, not outright. But Charlie, who was Ray's friend, she must have said something, and he worked it out." I thought back to that day in the car. Even then I had been burying the memories and beyond confirming Ray's suspicions I had never once talked to him about it. Somehow though, the fact that he knew had helped me; just knowing I could have gone to him if I needed.
          However the next few months had been difficult. I had become more protective of Katie again; even concerned when she was with Bodie, almost as though I'd had some premonition of what was to happen to him within the few short weeks leading up to her birthday...
          "What about Bodie? Why did you tell him?"
          From the corner of my eye I could see Bodie at the kitchen window. This was what she needed to know most, and precisely what she couldn't find out.
          "It was your birthday. You were ecstatically happy; you had Mum, your friends there, and Ray and Bodie arrived to make the afternoon. You had everything, Katie, and all I had was bad memories. I might have seemed OK to you and Mum, but I'd been terrified for weeks after that attack. When Bodie made some comment about you missing Dad, I couldn't help myself and told him the truth." I didn't dare look at her for fear of giving something away. "I'd always trusted him with you. It was only then I found out I could trust him with me."
          Rob and Bodie had come out onto the patio but by some - unspoken? - agreement, were staying there. Katie gazed up at them, focused on the man who had been a father to her, searching her own memory of that day. "He was even more protective of me afterwards - and you."
          "Bodie and Ray have both protected me ever since, Katie. An unlikely pair of guardian angels."
          She leaned across to give me a hug. "I understand now. And I won't ever ask you about it again - but if you ever want to talk...?"
          "I'll know where to find you."
          Seeing our private conference seemed to be at an end, the men approached us. I'm sure Katie could see Bodie's concern about our discussion as clearly as I could, but she would never know the real reason behind it.
          She got up to give him a hug. "Thank you for making my big day wonderful yesterday. I'm so glad I have you."
          Over her shoulder, only I could see Bodie's relief that she was none the wiser, and it was a few seconds before he found his voice. "It was a good day. Probably the last time I get to call you 'sprout'."
          "It certainly should be!" she exclaimed. "I thought I outgrew that nickname years ago."
          "I thought I might resurrect it," Bodie teased. "Just until you have a kid and can pass it on."
          "It's a deal," Katie told him, laughing. Turning to fetch another garden chair Bodie missed the glance Rob and Katie exchanged, and I had the feeling that that day would be sooner than he was imagining.
          Katie smiled at me, seeing that I'd guessed. That was another secret we would share, just for a few months anyway.

© Carol Good - February 2009